Caterpillar DW 21 motor scraper

Caterpillar DW 21 motor scraper

Pictured here in the mid-1950s is a Caterpillar DW 21 motor scraper at work on a section of Highway 401 in the Belleville, Ontario area.

H.J. McFarland Construction Co. Ltd. based in Picton, Ontario had taken on local township custom crushing work beginning in the 1930s and by 1937 had landed an 8-km highway construction contract in the Picton area. 

By 1940, due to the ongoing war effort, the Commonwealth Air Training Program turned out to be a boon to many roadbuilding contractors. Some 30 air strips had to be built to train British pilots in several regions of Ontario and McFarland had contracts for 10 of them. In addition to doing the earthmoving, grading and surfacing of the runways, some companies — including McFarland — became general contractors to build the barracks, mess halls, hangars and infrastructure such as water and sewerage. 

McFarland Construction carried on with sewer, watermain, concrete work, earthmoving, quarry and roadbuilding construction well after the passing of Harvey McFarland in 1973.

Interestingly, Harvey McFarland was quite the busy entrepreneur, yet he served several terms as the Mayor of Picton. In addition to his civic duties, he sponsored a local area hockey team, the aptly named “Belleville McFarlands.” In 1959, with Harvey McFarland’s financial help, the team represented Canada at the World Hockey Championship held in Prague beating 10 other international teams, including the Russian Nationals and were crowned World Champions.

In the post-war era of the 1940s and 50s roadbuilding in Ontario was at its peak with improvements to highways in northern Ontario and the 400 series of highways. 

RELATED: Toronto Subway construction

Contractors required larger capacity equipment such as the Caterpillar DW 21 scraper. It eclipsed the Caterpillar DW 10 and 15 motor scrapers with increased power and capacity. Similar improvements to crawler tractors were ongoing. This model was manufactured for a decade from 1951 on, rated at a 15-cubic-metre capacity and powered by a Cat engine rated at 168 kW. The Ontario region Caterpillar dealer at the time was Geo. W. Crothers Ltd. based in Toronto.

Hopefully, restrictions due to the COVID-19 may be lifted somewhat so that HCEA Canada’s 2021 June and October events can proceed. 

To see more than 60 restored pieces of vintage construction equipment in action be sure to attend the Historical Construction Equipment Association (HCEA) Canada’s 2021 events: Wheels & Tracks in Motion held in June and the Last Blast in October. Both events are held at the Simcoe County Museum near Barrie, Ontario. 

HCEA Canada is a proud Community Heritage Partner of the Simcoe County Museum.